In our episode on urban agriculture in America, urban ag pioneer Will Allen says, “food is the most important thing in our lives.” That’s quite a statement. I conducted the interview with Allen on a windy day in Milwaukee and that sentence has stuck with me. “Food is the most important thing in our lives.” It’s important, sure, but the most important thing?
I wasn’t sure I believed that at the time, but I do now.
Of course we need food to survive and eat three meals a day if we’re lucky. Food has a direct impact on our health and well being. It doesn’t get much more fundamental that that. And food production has a profound impact on water quality, soil health and the climate–little things that we depend on for survival. But food, or lack of it, can have global implications.
I read a column by Thomas Friedman on Easter Sunday that drove home not just the the importance of food in our lives, but its importance to global peace. The Arab spring, Friedman wrote, had its roots in the rejection of corrupt and authoritarian rule, but in at least in three countries–Tunisia, Yemen and Syria–the uprisings can also be traced to conflicts over food and water.
Friedman writes: “Isn’t it interesting that the Arab awakening began in Tunisia with a fruit vendor who was harassed by police for not having a permit to sell food — just at the moment when world food prices hit record highs? And that it began in Syria with farmers in the southern village of Dara’a, who were demanding the right to buy and sell land near the border, without having to get permission from corrupt security officials? And that it was spurred on in Yemen — the first country in the world expected to run out of water — by a list of grievances against an incompetent government, among the biggest of which was that top officials were digging water wells in their own backyards at a time when the government was supposed to be preventing such water wildcatting?”
I’d say that’s very interseting indeed. Food can be revolutionary. Literally.
If we can get this right–if we can produce food in a more socially, economically and environmentally just way, it will have an unparalleled impact on the common good. Because like Allen I believe food is the most important thing in our lives. My hope is that Food Forward can help show we might go forward as we collectively try to get it right.